The Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) is expected to sign a contract for a pre-production batch of 12 Sukhoi Su-57 fighter aircraft, Russia’s first indigenously designed and built fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, with United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a major Russian aerospace and defense company, this week, according to the head of UAC Yuri Slyusar.
“By the end of the summer, I think probably at (…) Patriot Park, we will sign contracts for the first batch with the defense ministry. Regular supplies will start next year,” Slyusar was quoted as saying by TASS news agency. Patriot Park refers to the venue of the 2018 Army Forum, an annual event organized by the Russian MoD to showcase Russian-made military hardware taking place from August 21 to 26 in Moscow.
The Russian MoD first announced in February that it would conclude an agreement for the procurement of an initial batch of Su-57s with UAC by the end of the year. “We are buying Su-57 jets for test combat use. First stage state trials are over,” the Russian deputy defense minister said at the time. “This year, we will sign a contract for the first batch of 12 Su-57 fighter jets for the Armed Forces.”
Notably, the Russian MoD announced that it will not mass-produce the Su-57 this July. Originally, the stealth fighter was supposed to replace the Russian Air Force’s existing stock of MiG-29s and Su-27s by the end of the 2020s. The MoD did not cite specific reasons for its decision, although Russia’s declining defense budget and various technical challenges with the aircraft certainly played a role.
The Kremlin did state it that could still place a bigger Su-57 order in the future.
There is also doubt about whether the Su-57, a multirole, single seat, twin-engine air superiority/deep air support fighter developed under the PAK-FA fighter program, is a genuine fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
“For example, the Russian military aviation industry still struggles with the aircraft’s next-generation engine,” I explained elsewhere. “A new engine [reportedly] called the Saturn izdeliye 30 (purportedly featuring increased thrust and fuel efficiency and fitted with 3D thrust vectoring nozzles) is not expected to be ready for serial production until at least 2020.”
Other components of the aircraft including its sensor suite and other mission systems also continue to be plagued by developmental issues.
As I reported earlier this month, a Russian MIG-31K interceptor armed with a Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“Dagger”) air-launched ballistic missile and a Su-57 stealth fighter jet will conduct joint demonstration flights during the Army-2018 Forum at the Kubinka airfield outside Moscow. It will be the first joint public flight demonstration of a MiG-31K, a modified MIG-31BM, and a Su-57.